Name Justin Day
Where are you from
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I live in Newport, Kentucky with my loving supportive partner Amanda Posz, our two dogs Luci and Lollie and our cat Link. We reside in a little 100 year old house on the hill. It’s a fixer-upper that we’ve never taken the time to fix up, but it suits us fine. (Sometimes at night I lie awake, wondering if the house’s foundation is finally going to give way and we’re going to slide off into the street, but that’s just my irrational thoughts. I have a lot of those.)
After high school I went to the Art Institute of Cincinnati for graphic design and still to this day use much of what I learned there in my current work.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’d be happy to! Right now I’m very excited and quite sleep deprived as well, so you’ll have to bare with me. I have a few of big projects going on, actually.
First and foremost, I have just launched a new Bizarro Story-Telling podcast by the name of Random Transmissions. The first episode features one my short stories titled “When the Avalanche Calls”. You get a unique unrelated story delivered from within an ongoing universe that builds from episode to episode. It’s ambitious for a podcast, but I’m happy with the end result.
I’m also in the middle of writing a bizarro science fiction novel called “Fail Safe” (title still pending) as well as a short story that gives my perspective on the well-worn territory of the Zombie Apocalypse narrative, called “The Interpreter”.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always had an interest in story-telling, as far back as I can remember, it connects to my early childhood. I have severe anxiety which started when I was as young as four years old. That’s when I started making up stories in my head to calm myself. I would draw detailed spaceships inhabited by entire families of robots and then imagine that I lived inside with them. I would make up stories about our futuristic lives and how great everything was and this would make me feel better.
I’m not entirely sure when I learned to write, but I know my mother taught me before I learned it in school. So I was an early writer and I began scribbling stories anywhere I could.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I remember it well. I was around eight years old at the time. My family had planned an all day trip to a nearby amusement park called Kings Island and everyone I knew was going. They were all very excited. I was too, I suppose — but not for the same reasons.
I must pause for a moment and say, because it’s important to the story, that I was overweight as a child (I still am, but it’s important to note that I was as a child) and my parents were constantly trying to find ways to get me to be more active and participate in real life instead of sitting in my room drawing pictures and writing stories about aliens and robots.
They were genuinely concerned, and I don’t hold that against them. I would have been too. Needless to say, I knew they’d notice if I took a notebook with me to King’s Island and I knew they’d be able to guess what my plans were if they saw me with said notebook, so I hid it up my shirt.
I remember the car ride there being very long, and the entire time I was scared of being found out. I didn’t want them to know that I was more excited about seeing all the different people and the varying buildings and architecture and what-not, than I was about the parks actual attractions. That’s what I was thinking about the entire time, as we made the nearly 2 hour trek to this place of wonder. That, instead of actually going on rides and eating popcorn and meeting the Flintstone characters in big plush suits, like everyone else around me who was my age.
I was simply excited to be going to a different PLACE because at the time we lived in a mobile home on my grandmother’s farm property and I didn’t get to see many new people or places where I lived. I was thirsty for characters and new content. I wanted to observe.
So yes, we were heading to this amusement park, this place I’d never been. My dad had gotten free tickets from work, otherwise we would not have been able to afford it. For all I knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was young and how was I to know that I would have other chances to go to places like this?
Once we got to the park, we went our separate ways.
I pretended to stand in line for a ride called “The Beast” until everyone was out of site and then broke from the line and found the nearest venue with a table. It was a small hamburger stand and I sought out a seat way back in the shadows. I wanted to plant myself in a place where I could watch people, but where I couldn’t be seen easily. I finally decided on a spot, and before I sat down I lifted up my shirt and peeled the notebook from my fat little tummy, where the nervous sweats had adhered the cardboard cover to my skin.
It must have been an interesting site to anyone who saw me struggling to set-up my little writers corner, but I never was worried about what other people thought so it didn’t even occur to me at the time.
I spent at least 9 hours that day moving from table to table, venue to venue, staying in the shadows, avoiding my family and filling that notebook with details and by the end of the day I knew without a doubt that, like it or not, I was a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My very first book? Hmmm….
I was 15 years old I believe, so my inspirations were a bit different back then. I’d have to say the movie “Dawn of the Dead” was a huge source of ideas. I watched it almost every day. It inspired me to write a horror novel called Green-X. It was your average Romero knock-off stuff, nothing good and it was never published but it was my first book and I will always remember it fondly.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Yes, I write bizarro fiction mostly. It has bits of science fiction, horror, and a slipstream character to it as well as some very dark comedy. I write more in first person than in 3rd.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title to my upcoming novel is “Fail Safe”. It has a few different meanings, some I can share and some I can’t. The surface meaning has to do with the fact that the main protagonist keeps attempting to commit suicide, but she lives in an automated, controlled environment that is programmed to keep her alive. So the Fail Safe, meant to keep her safe and healthy, is the very entity she is fighting against.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Failsafe deals A LOT with suicide.
Just putting that out there, front and center. I know that’s a subject that many people cringe at. But let’s be adults about it and say that it exists and it’s a true problem. I think people steer clear of certain subjects because they are hard to think about, but I believe those are the very subjects that need to be explored.
The main message is that sometimes there are miserable people out there who don’t know why they feel a certain way and instead of finding sensible ways to help them, we often make snap judgements and label them and even ostracize them from society, which is the wrong thing to do.
Sometimes all people need is a nonjudgmental ear to listen.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
Quite a bit of it.
When I was at a low point in my early twenties, over ten years ago, I did attempt suicide a few times. Luckily I never succeeded.
At the time I thought it was what I wanted but obviously I was wrong. I was very sick.
Since then, I was able to find help through years of therapy and medication. But that doesn’t mean I will ever forget where I came from. Unfortunately, I think a lot of folks who go through similar ordeals tend to bury their past, but there is valuable data that can be mined from that suffering.
I refuse to bury it. Yes, I am better, but now that I am well, I can analyze my suffering from a point of mental clarity and pull information from it that may be able to help others and that is very important to me.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My narratives tend to focus heavily on my own experiences. I may go to others for outside influences on supporting characters and connected events, but mostly when you read me, you’re reading me.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
If I had an imaginary mentor, it’d be William Faulkner, so first and foremost is “The Sound and the Fury”. The there’s:“The White Hotel” by D.M. Thomas. “Suttree” by Cormac McCarthy. “The Stranger” by Albert Camus. “Anathem” by Neal Stephenson. “Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs. “Ulysses” by James Joyce. “The House on the Borderland” by William Hope Hodgson. “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. “The Trial” by Franz Kafka. “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett. “Cats” by Andrew Lloyd Webber. “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert A. Heinlein. “The Great and Secret Show” by Clive Barker. “Unwind” by Neal Shusterman. “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro. “Breakfast of Champions” by Kurt Vonnegut. “Enduring Love” by Ian McEwan. And “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Right now I am reading “You Might Just Make It Out Of This Alive” by Garrett Cook. It’s a book of his bizarro short stories and I am absolutely loving it! Seriously, if you get a chance, do some research on this dude and pick up the book “A God of Hungry Walls”, that book was amazing!
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
- Lockhart, Chuck Palahniuk, Garrett Cook, Jeremy C. Shipp, Sam Pink, Matt Ruff, Carlton Mellick III, Daniel Arenson, Jordan Krall, Anderson Prunty, Edward Lee, Tom Robbins. I know some of them have been writing for a while, but I consider them current authors who have grabbed my interest and who are still producing great work and many of them are new to me.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I am set to finish “Fail Safe” by the end of April, so keep me in the back of your mind until then because I think that book is really going to make some waves.
The short zombie story “The Interpreter” is coming out very different from anything I’ve seen in that sub-genre. It’s definitely primed to mess with your head and make you really think about the living-dead narrative.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Most of my support comes from my amazing partner of 19 years, Amanda Posz. I’m also very thankful for my pets, who are always there for me no matter what. I think they’ve heard more of my stories than anyone else. But my partner and my pets are my family. Beyond them… I’d have to say my friend Kevin Spitler. He’s alway there to chill with me on the hard days and watch a bad movie and laugh and he doesn’t judge me for how freaking weird I can be.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I see writing as a way of life. Whether it pays the bills is secondary to what it provides the individual simply through execution. Yes, at the moment I consider it MY career, and I’m comfortable saying that, but six years ago I would have told you I was a Photographer who writes for fun and now I’m a Writer who writes for fun.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. I’m still in the process of finishing it, but the course is set, I’m just along for the ride.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I had my first piece published in the fifth grade. It was a poem about spiders and they put it in the local newspaper. There was some kind of cash reward, I can’t remember the exact amount, but I know I spent it all on comic books. I remember thinking “WOW! What a life! You mean to tell me that there are people who will give me money for making stuff up?” I was hooked from then on.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Sure, I’d love to. Call it a teaser! Here’s a bit from the first chapter of my upcoming Novel “Fail Safe”, the chapter is titled “The Second Wrist”.
I’ve noticed that often, when killing themselves, people in the movies give themselves this “one last look” and for some reason it’s comforting to them. At least it looks like a comforting glance, maybe I’m misinterpreting it?
It’s hard to tell because I have no context. Everything I’ve ever learned came from the sad projections of a dirty screen — sieved from the datamine of the oldnet — they are the machinations of another world dug-up and half assembled. I suppose I’ll never truly understand any of it.
I search around, wide-eyed, but there isn’t much to see. The closet I’m in is thick with darkness and completely empty, almost like being in the sim before it boots a filter. There is no light save for a rectangle of illuminated lines leaking in around the door. I guess that’ll be the last thing that I see.
Usually they’re in the bathroom, the actors in the films I’ve watched.
I have no such luxury. I had to pick somewhere safe, somewhere they wouldn’t look. So the bathroom was not an option. There will be no art to my death; no sink to catch the blood, no bathtub to lay in, no tiny-tiled floor for the life to run out of me and make pretty criss-cross patterns, nothing but the low hum of a nearby geothermal generator — worst of all, there are no damn mirrors in the small room I’ve barricaded myself in, at least nothing obvious as I quickly look around.
Why am I so preoccupied with mirrors all of a sudden? It’s especially confusing since I’ve spent 25 years of my life avoiding mirrors. Now I’m shuffling on my knees. From a distance I must look like a child playing pretend.
What am I doing?
Am I panicking? I’m panicking.
I stop myself because I have to hurry before the pain sensors I’ve hard-jammed come back online and alert the Authority.
My left hand is already draining slow and alternating ripples of excitement and fear shimmer from my fingertips to my spine, punctuated by the pain of the deep cut I made. I’m surprised I’ve gone this far and made it to the second wrist. This has never happened before and the piece of sharpened plastic I’m using to tear into myself starts to shake when I pass it to my left hand because this is unfamiliar territory. I suddenly feel very uncoordinated.
“What will my last thought be?” I wonder.
My bare knees grind into the frigid ground as I shift and try to look at myself in the reflection of the blood from the first cut. It’s blooming there on the concrete but I can’t make out my features in the sparse light. I should have changed the lightbulb in this room before selecting it as my final resting place. I suppose I thought darkness would be better but in hindsight, well, as it stands, I see only a vague, tilted shadow dogeared by a sickly crimson glistening. An abstract ghost of my former self.
It’s depressing but this will have to do, I suppose. I nod and see my shifty shadow quiver.
My feet start to tingle and I’m getting a little dizzy. If I want to succeed this time, I have to get the second one finished before they find me. If I fail, all these months of planning will be for nothing!
I clamp my right hand between my left knee and the ground so it won’t move, like the guys on the fishing show when they’re removing a hook from a large slippery catch.
With the crude, whittled tool in hand, I push hard with all my weight and harder down into my right wrist. The sharp pain splashes into my elbow and then shoots up my shoulder. I do it quick and I feel the edged plastic pop through the skin surface. Once inside, I wiggle it around until I strike oil. My blood comes thick and slow like sap tapped from a small, sad tree branch.
— NO! I cock my head and strain my ears.
I cannot deny it. The whisper-whirring of a motor, the sound of rubber tracks skidding the cold ground. My heart sinks — the jammers didn’t last long enough! The Authority has sensed the pain and sent out The Doctor to retrieve me.
I stand up quickly. They are triangulating my agony! I have to fight back! I just need time!
I pull out the small pins I’d stuck in my shoulders to stifle the pain sensors. No use for these any more, they’ll find me soon enough and the pins will only slow my movement.
Another wave of dizziness hits me, and I clumsily search above an air duct that runs over my head until I feel it. Blood drips into my eyes. I grab the long metal piece of hydroponic pipe I had rationed and hid from Harvey. My hands are sticky and their grip is weak. It’s getting harder to use them as the blood leaves me.
It’s too dark to see it, but I feel where I had etched “Plan B” into the pipe with an old pen nib as I quietly planned the final details of my own death a week ago.
I brace one end of the pipe with my foot and place the other end against the closet door. Suddenly feeling very tired I give myself a short break — just a short breather because I’m wearing out, I lean against the pipe, eyes closed
BAM! — the door beats hard jolting me back to consciousness and almost pushing me over.
“Pixel Dear,” I jump at the syrupy androgynous voice of The Authority as it drips from the ceiling. Synthetic and saccharine, it pools all around me, filling the room and stopping my breath. “Let the nice doctor in so he can help you. You’ve got a tiny booboo and we need to make it better, pixie-bear, so hurry, OK?”
“No shit!” I hiss back. “You think this is a fucking accident? I –”
Cut short, I shake as the medical robot rushes the door again, hitting hard and jolting me, nearly knocking me off the pipe I now straddle like some desperate witch caught in a tornado.
I’m starting to see stars. Maybe I’ve done it?
“Don’t be silly Pixel, Dear,” The Authority sings back. “You are seriously injured and need medical attention. Let the nice doctor in so he can see you and then he’ll give you a yummy lollipop.”
I can’t help but roll my head back and laugh. Lollipop! Ha!
In response The Doctor hits the door again, upending the pole and sending me flying through the air. I hit the back wall of the closet hard and everything goes black.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Time management, pure and simple. I have two modes, Ultra Focus and “Oh Look, Squirrel!” I love consuming media as much as I love creating it and it is important to find a balance. The internet doesn’t help either. Staying on task, well, it’s like fighting off little cat-ninjas that are flying at you while you’re trying to walk across a tight rope.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My favorite author is William Faulkner. His prose is chaos; honed and captured on paper. It’s a living, breathing puzzle of existence tied to a bridge and dropped in a river, unraveling. It’s an emotional BIG BANG!
I first picked up The Sound and the Fury around 20 years ago, way before I’d lived enough to understand the book, but I didn’t know that, I was full of myself and so I read it anyway and instead of getting flustered and putting it down, as many do, I just became obsessed with it. My first go at the memorable Benjy chapter, I didn’t have a lick of an idea what was going on, but I liked the sound of it. The motion. The beats. The bright lights. I was like an infant playing with a cell phone, in that way, you see. I had no idea what I was holding.
His work has a rhythm and a complexity to it that I just can’t get anywhere else.
I’ve read “The Sound and the Fury” at least once a year since that day so long ago. And every year the book changes, it grows with me – partly a reflection of myself, but the rest is hidden in the puzzle of his words and they unlock as you experience life.
20 years from now I will look back on this day and say I had a completely different understanding of his Yoknapatawpha tales. And I’m OK with that. I know I will die having never fully unlocked all the clues and I think that is a valuable life lesson that people need to learn. You have to go at some point and you are never going to have all the answers, so just roll with it.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I have agoraphobia as part of my anxiety, so I don’t really travel much but I’m working to change that. Most of the traveling I do happens in my head.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Well the cover isn’t set in stone yet for “Fail Safe”, but I’m a pretty handy artist and I have design training so I usually do my own artwork, either through digital painting or photography.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I would say the hardest part about writing “Fail Safe” so far has been coming to terms with my own feelings of inadequacy and yes, I’ll admit it, at times, self loathing.
When you write a book that centers around things like isolation, depression and suicide — even if it takes place in a bizarro, fictitious universe — it’s still holding a mirror up to yourself and asking “What do I know about this?” It may be a funhouse mirror or a puddle in the parking lot, but that’s a reflection. And your answer comes out through the narrative, which takes deep thought and concentration on your subject matter. Then you ask yourself “How do I feel about what I know and how can I make others feel that?” and once again, you craft an answer. So it has taken a toll on me to stay “in the zone” and concentrate on such aphotic content, especially at the beginning when the book is at a fever-pitch of helplessness.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that there is a difference between writing a male lead and a female lead. Especially as a male WRITING a female. I’m not saying one is better than the other, there are just differences, nuances. I had fun stepping into the skin of Pixel and learning about her sad past and even darker future.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
When you’re living your life and you make your living creatively, every day will be different! Some days will feel the same but they are all different.
There are bright shining days of inspiration and those are nice, but we’re not going to talk about those much because they mean diddly-squat in contrast to the other days. The shit shoveling days.
When I’m writing and I have a perfect day, the words flow like a waterfall and the ideas knit into place practically by themselves. Writing is like breathing on those good days.
“Congratulations for breathing!” I tell myself. “Good job! You should get a medal, Justin, for doing what came perfectly naturally and easily to you! And a cookie for each breath! Right?”
No. I’m finding that those days don’t stick out to me much when I reflect on my work presently. They did at one time, when I was younger, but now I think there is something more important.
What matters are the days when the keyboard feels like someone put Anthrax powder all over it. The room has shrunk to the size of a shoebox! When the depression and self loathing are so heavy that you stare at the wall and project images of escape as big as a star destroyer. When you hate your words and yourself for making them and the only thing that is stopping you from erasing the whole lot is the extra effort it would take.
AND THEN YOU WRITE ANYWAY!
Yes I have days like that, despite my cheery disposition!
On THOSE days, the shit shovelers I call them, sitting down to write is really to DO something. And I think I get my best stuff on those sludge-based toxic afternoons when nothing feels right. Because there is a struggle. There is a narrative to my narrative.
Now keep in mind I can only speak for myself. I’m sure some writers can fart rainbow dust and that’s awesome. But not me. It’s a bloody war, man, and the nastiest battles are the ones that are starting to mean something. They’re forming me into something. The bad days make you who you are, not the good ones, remember that.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Doing my best Samuel L. Jackson impression: “Hold onto your butts!”
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Yes. The first novel I ever read was “Kiteman of Karanga”. I was around six or seven years old and it changed my life. It’s a classic young adult novel and I recommend you check it out. I still have my copy to this day. There are scribblings on the inner side of the cover, that if you look really hard, you can tell are practice runs of me writing my name in cursive. I never did have good penmanship.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Unintentionally funny stuff happening in terribly bad movies always gets me to laugh. “You’re tearing me apart Lisa!” That’s a line from The Room, one of the worst movies ever made, anyone who has seen that will recognize that line and remember the scene that featured it. I’m part of a Facebook group called the BMC, Bad Movie Club, and we get together and intentionally subject ourselves to terrible movies. I get some of my best laughs from my times in that club.
Anything having to do with the death of animals, especially dogs, will make me cry on a dime.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I’d love to just sit on an old porch somewhere in the dry-heat of the south, cradling a sweet-sweet lemonade and chatting with Tom Waits about his life and his views on things.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
“See you never.”
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I like taking pictures of ugly places. I also collect bad movies on VHS and Laserdisc. My favorite bad movie is “The Raiders of Atlantis”. I can watch it 100 times and never get tired of those chopper landing scenes…
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Old TV shows and cartoons are my magical potion when I am having anxiety attacks. I have a lot of old shows on tape that I re-watch, or if they are on Netflix or Hulu I catch them there. Some of the shows I really dig are Mystery Science Theater 3000, Perfect Strangers, I Love Lucy, Quantum Leap and Married with Children.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I’m weird about food. Let’s just say I am a life-long addict who is currently in recovery. I’m on a medically monitored liquid diet to lose weight (so far I’ve lost around 50 pounds which is great!). So I pretty much live off protein shakes. I am allowed to have broccoli once a week, so I guess my favorite snack is steamed broccoli with hot sauce on it. I always look forward to eating that.
If we are talking about foods I can no longer eat, then I would say my favorite meal of all time is a Cincinnati 4-Way with Beans — it’s a regional food: spaghetti with a thin, sweet meat-based chili, topped with kidney beans and sharp cheddar usually served with a bowl of oyster crackers. But I can’t have that kind of food anymore.
My favorite color is cerulean blue.
My musical taste is all over the place from folk, to pop, to doom metal, to electronica. I could name a few vocalists and bands though: Tom Waits, CHVRCHES, Gunship, Le Matos, and Electric Wizard. That’s mostly what I listen to when I write.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Before I wrote, my favorite job was being a cashier at a grocer. I’ve done everything from being a knife salesman, to a custom toymaker, to a bill collector. But the only other thing I was really good at was being a cashier and there are days when I miss the human interaction of that job.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
To hear more about my upcoming works, follow me on twitter, I’m @justindaze. Or just friend me on facebook. I’m Justin Day and I live in Newport, Ky. You can check out my photography at http://photosbydaystudio.com. Don’t forget to subscribe to my new story-telling podcast on iTunes, it’s called Random Transmissions.
It has been a pleasure being interviewed by you, thanks for taking interest in my work. 🙂